Why I lift weights.

The following is a reminder.  To me.  Ive not lost my mojo–it’s more life has  conspired (neutering! volunteering!) to snag my time.  The below is a nudge to myself.   About voice.  My voice.  And how I *need*  to make the time to re-find it.

rsz photo222 Why I lift weights.

My Oakland gym.

 

Much to my parents’ chagrin I’m known for telling people I was not blessed with good genetics.

Intellectual genetics—yes.

I’m the product of a super-smart woman and a quite brainy male.

As a result, I come from a family that values brains over brawn.

Books over BOSUs.

Music over muscles.

rsz screen shot 2014 04 26 at 51533 am Why I lift weights.

The college years.

 

I coasted happily on my intellect with little focus on appearance or exercise — until my senior year of college.

Graduation time was upon us and I quickly realized the weight I’d gained over the past four years prevented me from fitting into any of interview suits.

I *had* noticed my jeans no longer fit and knew my “diet” was more late night pizza & gossip than early morning oatmeal & runs — but I was having fun.

I’d happily lived in a place of denial—-where the uniform was unbuttoned jeans covered by over-sized sweaters–but that time was ending.

It was time to make a change.

My healthy living path led…to the gym?!

I look back now and am baffled the “change” I chose lead me to my school’s small, Division-3 weight room.

It was dark, dirty, and rarely used by non-athletes, yet for some reason I felt called to venture in and eexplore.

I didn’t fall immediately in love. I stumbled into sorta-like.

I had no clue what I was doing, but thanks to my ability to mimic what I’d seen on television or skimmed in magazines I created a hodgepodge of a resistance training routine.

I used only machines I recognized (hello leg extensions!), and relied on body-weight exercises (many, many push-ups).

rsz screen shot 2014 04 27 at 50312 am Why I lift weights.

After about six weeks (thankfully never injured myself with my ignorance), I was making visible progress — and could at the very least fit into my jackets and skirts again.

After graduation I found myself returning to my parents’ house along with my freshly minted English Literature degree.

Unable to find a job,I joined a women-only fitness center to have something to do while I searched.

It was the early 90s and, while some women were lifting weights, there were still few of us in the free weights area.

I still had thirty pounds to lose, but my women-only choice was less about insecurity and more wanted the camaraderie of lifting weights with other women.

I had no idea when I made this decision it would impact the rest of my life.

Weight training in a female-only environment quickly moved my relationship with the iron from like to love.

  • I felt comfortable to trying new exercises without fear of people laughing at the fact I was a newbie.
  • I brought workout magazines to the gym and imitated their routines.
  • I bought Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding and lugged it everywhere I went.

More isn’t always better.

rsz screen shot 2014 04 26 at 51805 am Why I lift weights.

I lifted daily day.

I grew bigger and stronger and I felt amazing.

Until I didn’t.

After about six months in my love for the weights began to wane.

I didn’t look forward to my workouts.  My muscles began to shrink.

I lifted seven days a week and yet appeared as though I’d never hoisted a weight.

I grew skinny-soft.

It took me a while (my brand wasn’t previously a play on the word MISFIT for nothing), but I finally deduced I’d been overtraining.

I educated myself.

I learned to listen to my body and heed the fact it demanded rest in order to grow.

I began to eat intuitively and feed my muscles what they asked for.

I slowed down and still in all facets of my life.

It was then I realized most clearly I’d found my voice amidst the dumbbells and cables.

I had shed the extra pounds yet was the least of the changes.

I walked taller. I spoke up in all situations with a confidence I never knew I possessed. I sought out new and uncomfortable situations I had previously avoided. I felt capable, heard, and strong.

And I’ve never looked back.

Is there an end?

I’ve maintained my weight loss over two decades and firmly believe it’s because weights, for me, are about more fitness.

    • They’re the core of who I am.
    • They’re the reason I’m BRAZEN.
    • They’re why I’m completely comfortable in my own skin and with who I am.

rsz screen shot 2014 04 26 at 51958 am Why I lift weights.

I’m still lifting weights consistently at age 44.

I work full-time as a writer (seated for hours at a time) so my weight training looks pretty different now.

My workouts are at 4am when I can snag ‘me’ time before ‘everyone else’ time begins.

My weights now more take the form of resistance bands, bodyweight, or active play.

At 23, I never imagined I’d be able both to maintain my weight loss and be more fit two decades later.

Looking ahead, I plan to be the old woman in the free weights area at 84.

If you happen by and spy me in there, please come over, snag a dumbbell, bang out a few reps, and share your story.

Until then I’d love to hear YOUR weights love story in the comments below.

Is your resistance training tale a work in progress or a torrid love story already underway?

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Comments

  1. says

    My love affair with resistance training started in HS. My gym teacher was a female competitive body builder. She was petite, cut but not what I had seen like in the pages of my brothers Muscle N fitness mags. She got us in the weight room and taught us function and form. This was in the early 90s and I’ve loved weights ever since!

  2. says

    When I started lifting, about 4 1/2 years ago…I felt empowered and I still do. Getting stronger (not only physically) as I continue along :)

  3. says

    My love affair began in high school and I would go in early to lift with the wrestlers three days a week, I skipped a couple years in college but when my jeans could no longer button I joined a gym and have never looked back. I don’t belong to a gym anymore but I do work out at home and I love my muscles, they are a part of who I am.

  4. says

    I have dabbled with weights since I graduated from college and worked out with friends. I am slowly heading back into weights and love them :)

  5. says

    Our intros into weight training are quite similar and also timed the same–right at the end of college after packing on the pounds. Weight training is never going to be my big focus, as you know, b/c my love for running outweighs it. But I always do it 2-3x/week and try to keep it varied. You can’t be a woman in your 40s and not strength train, I think!

  6. says

    My weight training has evolved over the years too, due to time, injuries, and changing goals, but I will always share your love for the gym, the weights, and how both the act of lifting and the results make me feel.

  7. says

    Weights were and will always be my salvation. But my routine has changed and right now I am feeling a bit skinny soft. Thanks for the reminder to listen to my body and really make time to reconnect with my weight routine.

  8. says

    I would say a work in progress that is forever searching for balance. My hubby is Mr. Weights while I’m Miss Cardio…we are married…perhaps we should work together more often!!! I began weights in high school to avoid injury as a catcher….but since having children I am impressed with the muscle I can build…it makes me feel stronger than ever!

  9. Healthy Mama says

    For me it definitely was I didn’t realize the other strengths weights would give me.
    I would have s tarted before I turned 50.

  10. says

    I whole-heartedly wish I could get into weights but the weight room totally intimidates me. And I’m so hesitant to do at home for lack of instruction/knowledge. For now, I use the resistance bands because at least it’s something. But one of these days….

    • cherie says

      there is tons of information “out there” in magazines and in gyms…you only live once! Do it!

  11. says

    I was a college athlete– a dancer– and I never lifted weights! I lifted my body and did lots of cardio. After graduation, I fell in LOVE with weights. I’ll never go back. I’ll join you in the gym anytime friend! xoxo

  12. says

    my workout story is definitely a work in progress…. finding balance to running to not running to low resistance training to not working out at all – itz constantly changing!

  13. says

    At one time I used to go to the gym daily and then one day I decided I wasn’t making any progress so I stopped going. I wish I would have been educated on what I was doing then I might have stayed with it. I so need to get back in shape it isn’t even funny. I move like I am a disabled 90 yr old sometimes and I am only 41. My girls are sagging and my stomach looks like I am 8 months pregnant. The legs and arms don’t look bad at all but I could use a total improvement.

    Any suggestions on how to get the girls standing higher instead of hanging lower would be greatly appreciated. :-)

  14. says

    Ahhhh your wisdom always sits so well in my brain. But more I’m just stopping by today to say that picture of you in the fleece tank is my favourite of your oldies muaahahaha :P

  15. says

    I wish I had an ongoing love affair with weights, but I don’t. I go through phases. I always do some body weight exercises, but I know the older I get the more important weight training becomes. I so often think of your short, efficient, CONSISTENT workouts! Maybe I’ll get there one day…

  16. says

    I don’t think I need to tell you mine as you know it. :) Like you, I was lifting free weights in the early 90s when other women were not & even in the 80′s. :) I was in love from the beginning! I plan to be in the gym lifting until I can’t any more OR till they put me in the ground!

  17. says

    Other than a few body weight exercises (really only squats and lunges), I rarely did any weight training until I was about 35 – I was a runner and that should be enough, right?! But then I realized running wasn’t enough to keep me in the shape I wanted to be and that my body wasn’t able to run everyday like it used to.
    Now, I run less often and lift way more often – not only has it helped me stay healthy and fit but because I’m stronger I can actually run faster and further than I could when I was in college. (and I ran track on a scholarship then) Hooray for weights!!

  18. says

    I was the college girl in the women’s only ‘machine’ area of the gym for a long time. I’d mostly go to aerobics and step classes though. It wasn’t until I’d started dating the Caveman in my 30′s and he challenged me to a bench press contest that I really fell in love with the freeweights. I got a trainer, owned the plan, lost the contest and married him. The rest is history. :D

  19. says

    I didn’t set foot into the weight room until I was nearly 40!
    The only strength training I’d ever done up until then was in the context of group fitness classes; a great place to start, but a hodge podge of moves with weights that were too light to affect change.
    It wasn’t until my local rec centre expanded from just an aerobics room to a full on gym (and I got certified as a PT and started working there) that I came to realize just how important weight lifting is to me!
    #sistersinstrength

  20. says

    I started lifting weights in college. Scary time to go for it, since the entire campus shared the weight room with the football team :) I gradually stepped away from the machines into the land of free-weights and fell in love. For a while, I focused on isolation exercises until I learned how awesome compound movements are. Today, I rarely do a bicep curl, opting for overhead press, squats, deadlifts, and even olympic lifts. I hope I’m still going strong with it in my 40s.

  21. says

    If I had to pick only one fitness tool to take with me to a deserted island, it would be dumbbells. I love resistance training. I’m glad you found your love too.

  22. says

    Great story. At 38 I’m in better shape than I was in my 20′s. However. it took me about 10 years to understand how my body works and come to grips that I can’t outwork or outrun a bad diet. Today I am preparing to enter my first men’s physique contest later this summer. For me it’s all about setting new goals.

  23. emmaclaire says

    I dabble with lifting – as a part of classes or in the family room with videos – but I’ve had it on my yearly goals list for the past 3 years to get more serious about it. Part of my reluctance stems from feeling awkward in the weight room. I work at the local high school, and when I go to the gym after work, it’s full of male students. I don’t have a problem with working out in front of strangers, but I have this voice in my head “eewww, its our *secretary*” Silly, I know, but still tough to get past. My daughter has offered to go with me, and I think I’ll take her up on it. She took a year of Strength and Conditioning classes when there were only 2 girls in with all those guys. She’s my brazen idol!

  24. says

    Both my parents are very smart! However, it’s a little known family secret that my dad wanted to be a gym teacher until my grandmother adjusted his attitude, and he became a doctor, lol! I have his genetics, and my consistent long term weight lifting is directed towards functional fitness.

  25. says

    It’s so impressive that you found the weight room instead of falling into the cardio- more- the-better mindset that so many of us were brainwashed with. I’m so glad that weights made it into my routine in the last few years- but I do love to run!

  26. says

    Exercise has always been something i have to do, not want to do. So i’m trying to do things different now and make friends with it. Slowly, it’s working.

  27. says

    I am just generally a work in progress! I love my lifting, but lifting priorities change throughout the year for me. I drop it down in summer because I want to spend more time on the bike and I have found I just can’t get endurance on the bike if I keep up the routine I like to do in the winter with weights. Overtrained is the right word there.

  28. dawn says

    i was just reading your post this morning thinking how I hadn’t commented in awhile when your comment on my blog came in. I had just been thinking how thoughtful you are to me even when I’m not as good at coming by and telling you I was thinking of you :) You’re one of the great ones :)

    as for weights, I’ve only been doing them about 6 1/2 yrs so relatively new but I love them and have leaned a lot especially how much they do change my shape even if the scale doesn’t move. I will always do them as they really do make me feel empowered. I’m like Lori though that at different times of the year I switch things up to get more time in outdoors :)

  29. says

    My physical fitness background is mostly found in dance, where long and lean is highly valued. I remember being warned that you never wanted to ‘bulk up’. I need to remember that I actually know that bulking up is pretty hard to do and that strength is important for quality of life.
    I’ll see you when you’re 84 and we’ll life weights together! ‘Cuz I never intend to be slow and/or fragile!

  30. says

    I started weight training from Day 1, 6 years ago when I started losing my weight. Two years at maintaining an over 100 lb. weight loss, and here I am. I know it’s because I started weight training immediately that it has allowed me to grow in other aspects of my fitness routine. The arms! Hehe.

  31. says

    DEFINITELY a love story already under way! I started lifting at 15 (can’t believe it’s been 20 years already!) And I loved immediately how strong and empowered it made me feel! It didn’t hurt that I have the genetics to build and maintain muscle fairly easily! So results came quickly.

    I’ve always dreamt of doing a competition, but the amount of obessing and lack of life balance it would take to be competitive at it just has never appealed to me.

  32. cherie says

    I started lifting in the 70s and by the 80s there were a lot of women in the gyms I frequented. I am 60 and still lift to compliment my running, swimming and cycling. Still love the gym. Still love the smell of chlorine, locker rooms and the track early in the a.m. Need to reminders or nudges to get me to where I love to be!

  33. says

    As you know, weight lifting was my “missing link” for weight loss. Once I incorporated it into my routine, the pounds just fell away. And when the pounds didn’t move, my body still kept changing in a positive way. My attitude changed along with it. :)

    I’ll always be a work in progress, but strength training will be with me for the ride!

  34. says

    Training is the initial part to lose extra weight. Everybody should read the entire article to be inspired.

  35. says

    I have started lifting weights in the first year of collage. I intended to get a ripped body and impress the girls, but what I didn’t anticipate was that I started to love the weightlifting itself. Soon I wasn’t about looking sexy, I felt great listening to my favorite music while exercising. Soon I felt so much more alive than ever before. I was never sleepy or tired, I had so much energy, and I gained confidence that helped me pursue my goals in other areas of my life. I work out five times a week still to this day. It is something I would never give up. It was great to read about your journey, thank you for sharing it!

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  1. […] Why I lift weights via Carla Birnberg because getting back to strength training was already on the agenda for next week, but this has me even more pumped up (pun intended) to lift things up and put them down. […]